2nd September 2008 | Draft
Coherent Value Frameworks
Pillar-ization, Polarization and Polyhedral frames of reference
- / -
Holders of value configurations -- and their "pillars"
-- Configuring pillars
| From static "pillars" to
| Polyhedra: connecting "pillars" by "sides"
Polarization and its possible dynamic reframing
-- Pillars, poles and stakes
in magnetic fields
| Attractors and repulsors
-- Cyclic relationships
| Coherent encoding of
differences: a Chinese perspective
-- Implications of unforeseen metaphors of coherence | Value
of central "emptiness"
Incompatible value frameworks: "token agreement" vs "bloody
| Problematic conflation of polarities
-- "Walking" as a metaphor
Value-based crisis: values as instruments of memetic warfare
-- Value systems in conflict
| Value manipulation
-- Memetic warfare
| Moral warfare
| Instruments of value warfare
Sharing value and ethical frameworks
-- Compatibility of different value sets
| Dominant standard
Robustness through triangulation and symmetry
Configuring sets of values and principles as polyhedra
-- Beyond value checklists
compatibility between value sets
-- Folding and enfolding value configurations
gear" for appropriate "transmission"
-- Value "homes", "shelters" and "accommodation"
From "value frameworks" to "value vehicles":
statics vs dynamics ?
-- Formative models
| Models as "vehicles"
Cognitive "spiders" and "feet"
-- Aeronautics and noonautics
| Metaphors as "vehicles"
This context for the arguments developed here is provided separately in
of Engaging Values: context of the Human Values and Wisdom Project (2008).
The argument here introduces that in a subsequent document Topology
of Valuing: psychodynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value
configurations (2008). The latter document contains the References for
all three. The argument of all three is summarized in a final paper (Embodying
Values Dynamically through Alternation: integrating sets of polarized
static values through indicative metaphor, 2008). The exploration
was undertaken as a contribution to a Panel
on Ethics and Policies for Sustainable Futures (Hyderabad, 2008) of the World
Academy of Art and Science.
The focus here is on the global systemic structure of any set of values
or ethics and its necessary isomorphism and resonance with a society that
is global in ways additional to the conventional geopolitical perspective
-- as a global knowledge society.
This exploration is associated with related studies of the relevance of
"polyhedral" structures to governance (Towards
Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors
Pattern Language: software facilitation of emergence, representation and
transformation of psycho-social organization
, 2008; Configuring
Global Governance Groups: experimental visualization of possible integrative
of value configurations -- and their "pillars"
Any study of human values or systems of ethics (such as that mentioned in
the earlier paper In
Quest of Engaging Values: context of the Human Values and Wisdom,
2008) can but raise the question of how sets of values -- the "values
of civilization" --
are "held" or "upheld" at
the global level. They are indeed variously held, and "defended", by such
as the following:
- the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies, usually implicitly,
through the articles constituting various declarations, many referring
to the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. It would be an exception for
any to formally announce a value as such.
- many religions through credos that may more specifically refer to
what might be recognized as values in other contexts, possibly extending
to religion-specific declarations (for example, Cairo
Declaration on Human Rights in Islam); considerable effort
has been devoted to achieving a common ethical framework for the
world's religious and spiritual traditions (Declaration
Toward a Global Ethic). Several religions define themselves specifically
in terms of "pillars":
- the European Union has developed various sets of "pillars" (for
Pillars of the European Union, to which "additional pillars"
have been subsequently added) ;
these might be understood as the implicit value architecture of a number
of strategic initiatives, as discussed elsewhere (Strategic "pillars",
Polyhedral Global Governance complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors,
- sectoral interests elaborating specific declarations and charters (Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Universal
Declaration on Animal Welfare; Universal
Declaration of Linguistic Rights; etc)
- although, at the time of writing, with respect to the
- the NATO position is explicitly stated
to be in defence of "NATO values"
(as was the case with Kosovo), there is no explicit statement
of those values other than what might be inferred from the Atlantic
Charter (1941) that includes a "declaration of principles
common to our peoples";
the Euro-Atlantic values, have been noted to include " the respect
and care for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the free market
economy" by Václav Havel (NATO
and the Czech Republic: a common destiny, 1997).
- the EU position, as defined by German Chanellor Angela Merkel (26
August 2008), required that common values
and basic principles must be met for cooperation between the European
Union and Russia: That we have economic connections
is no secret. We can not however disregard our values. Again
it is not clear where such values have been defined. Merkel
had previously indicated (The Guardian, 29 August 2006) that
she would like to see Europe’s “Christian
values” prevalent in a new version of the EU constitution, a
reference to God being an “essential
element” because of Christianity's "significant influence" on
European history. It is however a fact that both Russians and Georgians
also attach great significance to Christian values.
- the Coalition
of the Willing in justifying its recent efforts to defend
the values of civilized society. As with the values of the EU's pillar-based
strategies, the US articulated 8
Strategic Pillars as the basis for the National
Strategy for Victory in Iraq (30 November 2005). It is unclear
how these values specifically contrast with any set of "universal values",
or indeed with the values defended with their lives by those who engage
in what others frame as acts of terrorism.
- the Institute for American Values,
although upholding the "American values" to which politicians
make frequent reference, seemingly avoids indication of what those values
are. The American Values Alliance provides a checklist of "progressive
values"). However a separate
site, specifically devoted to "American values" (and highlighting
Individual Freedom, Choice in Education, The Family and Privacy) argues:
An indication of Key
American Values, provided for international students, lists: Individualism
and Privacy, Equality, Informality, Future change (and progress), Goodness
of Humanity, Time, Achievement (action, work, and materialism), Directness
and Assertiveness. In a defining moment, on the occasion of the Democratic
Convention at the time of writing, Michele Obama focused on American
values, without idenitying them (Wife
stresses Obama’s American values,
25th August 2008). These are presumably interwoven with the elusive subtleties
of the "American
Dream", notably as seen from a European perspective
values in comparison with ours, the American dream, 2007).
If you asked most Americans what the cultural values in the U.S. are,
you might get some blank stares, or a statement of some basic beliefs.
The question may seem simple, but the answer is quite complex. In a
society as highly diverse as the United States, there is likely to
be a multitude of answers. American culture has been enriched by the
values and belief systems of virtually every part of the world. Consequently,
it is impossible to be comprehensive. Nevertheless, a few selected
values are at the core of the American value system.
Of particular interest is the very explicit association of individual political
parties with sets of values, as in the literature on "Republican values",
"Democratic values" or "liberal values". The contents of such sets, and the
values implied, are necessarily much more elusive although particular values
may be identified for particual purposes -- as with "honour" and "dignity"
in the case of the 2008 Republican Presidential campaign. Far less clear
is how such sets then map onto one of "American values" or of "Christian
values" -- and how these then contrast with "European values" or "Russian
values", for which there are in each case ardent advocates..
Especially curious is the manner in which values are widely associated with
"rights" and not with "responsibilities" (presumably
"unvalued") -- an exception being the OAS
Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Various attempts
"declarations of responsibilities" have been essentially unsuccessful
(as discussed in Universal
Declaration of Responsibilities of Human Intercourse,
2007 and in Universal
Declaration of Patent Responsibilities, 2007). Arguably "our
and "their responsibilities" are appreciatively valued by "us",
rights" and "our responsibilities" tend to be valued
problematically by us.
An unusual, and potentially questionable, feature of the "pillar" metaphor
is the implication that the values are somehow "cast in stone" for
all time. Of particular interest in India (the location of
the meeting at which this paper is presented) are the renowned Pillars
of Ashoka erected by the Mauryan king Ashoka during
his reign in the 3rd century BCE; these are a series of columns dispersed
throughout the northern Indian subcontinent (with the southernmost having
been discovered at Amaravati). Many of the pillars are carved with proclamations
reflecting Buddhist teachings: the Edicts
This initiative had been preceded by that of Hammurabi (1795 – 1750
BCE), first king of the Babylonian Empire, whose code of law,
the Code of
was inscribed on a stele in a public place. It is cited as the first example
of the legal concept that some laws are
so fundamental as to be beyond the ability of even a king to change.
The pillar metaphor used by the EU has been used by Sohail Inayatullah (Six
pillars: futures thinking for transforming, Foresight, 2008).
These pillars are: mapping, anticipating, timing, deepening, creating alternatives,
and transforming. As with the "pillars" of the EU, such language
raises the question as to the degree to which values are implicit in the categories
identified. In his value-based strategic concern with the future, "to
help people to recover their agency, and help them to create the world in which
they wish to live", Inayatullah also describes six "foundational
(the used future, the disowned future, alternative futures, alignment, models
of social change, and uses of the future) and six "questions" (will,
fear, missing, alternatives, wish, and next steps as related to the future).
Presumably to be considered as intimately related to values is the effort
to define and manage individual identity through "pillars of identity" (seemingly
numbering from 3 to 5). One 5-fold set distinguishes the following pillars:
physical well-being, financial well-being, social network, work (and/or
realizing full potential), and beliefs (norms and values). One 3-pillar system
distinguishes race, class, and gender; for another it is body, work, and
Perhaps fundamental to the use of the pillar metaphor by the Abrahamic religions,
and highlighting its implied subtlety, is its use in the Old Testament (Proverbs
hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars, as helpfully
discussed by Richard
C. Nickels (The
Seven Pillars of Wisdom) who notes their relationship to "uprights".
Elsewhere they are alleged to be
seven doctrinal categories that are the main supporting "pillars" of
almost every religious belief system in this world (Mike Shreve, Seven
Pillars of Wisdom).
Configuring pillars: The challenge
with respect to any collective articulation of values or ethics, whether
by religions, in the EU case, or as exemplified by Inayatullah, is how to
configure the pillars and how to embody the operational order and dynamic
that they imply. In a world inspired by systems thinking through which relationships
between entities are of the highest significance, little
attention is given to the systemic relationships between values --
and the nature of the system of ethics or values thereby constituted, despite
intuitive recognition regarding the need for a system of "checks and balances".
As significant exception is the work of Francisco Parra-Luna (Axiological
Systems Theory: a general model of society, tripleC, 2008).
What indeed makes for the "coherence" of a set of values or ethics?
problematic is the selectivity represented by pillars isolated in this way,
in comparison with the larger set of neglected ("un-pillared")
values that may be of significance to others or, in some unforeseen manner,
to systemic sustainability. This is the challenge of the values in the Human
Values Project above. Which such values should be treated
as irrelevant -- in the longer-term? Which values are
systemically related to which other values, directly or indirectly? Should
there be concern at the possibility that all values are related "globally" through
systemic pathways by analogy to insights from the hypothesis of "six
degrees of separation" (see E-mail
Study Corroborates Six Degrees of Separation, Scientific
The challenge of configuring to achieve coherence is especially problematic
when the values are in some form of polarized relationship to one another,
as attractors and/or repulsors (as discussed below). It is in this sense,
within the pillar metaphor, how surprising it is that so little consideration
is given to relationships between the pillars, whether as a topological configuration
or in terms of
them (thereby forming archways and gateways). On the hand, if the pillars
are in some way to be comnsidered pointers or indicators to greater subtlety,
then it is surely their complementary in a configuration that would reinforce
this -- rather than using them to reinforce conventional hierarchical modes
In June 1991, for example,
those involved in the EEC Commission efforts to articulate the new treaty
details for European economic and political union were clarifying alternatives
using code words including "pillars", "hats", "temples", "trees" and "ivy".
The pillars were separate chapters of the treaty, the hat was the prologue
creating a European union embracing three pillars. The alternatives were
described in a "temple-versus-trees" debate in which the Commission argued
that the treaty should look more like a "tree trunk with branches" than a "shaky
temple supported by pillars". Others criticized a revision as "pillars covered
in ivy", namely
with largely cosmetic changes (Independent, 17 June 1991).
It would seem that the any relationship between the pillars is primarily
"virtual" -- as with the values they represent -- and as with the subtleties
of their coherence they (do not) define. The associated challenge with respect
to the consequent strategic dilemmas engendered by such value (dis)relationship)
was addressed on the occasion of the Earth Summit (Configuring
Globally and Contending Locally: shaping the global network of local bargains
by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral issues, 1992).
From static "pillars" to moving "feet":
In previous comment on this challenge (Configuring
pillars, 2008), the appropriateness of this metaphor as fundamental
to strategic initiatives for the future was questioned by comparison with the
array of pillars constituting Stonehenge --
presumably to be understood as a farsighted strategic array for the megalithic
period. An earlier study suggested that current technology allowed such "pillars" to
be represented as (budget line) "feet" -- as a means of modelling
the capacity of the initiative to move forward, retaining both its stability
and necessary nimbleness (Animating
the Representation of Europe: visualizing the coherence of international institutions
using dynamic animal-like structures, 2004). In contrast to modern
use of pillars, those of Stonehenge were specifically linked ("coordinated")
by lintels to form a ring -- surrounded by several concentric outer rings.
It might be supposed that "values" of some kind (perhaps expressed metaphorically
as distinct divinities) were associated with such pillars.
Curiously, whilst the value-based sets distinguished
by such as the EU typically number 4-8 pillars, a more specific relationship
to "feet" is evident in the continuing preoccupation in democratic
governance between "left" and "right", whatever the
factions so clustered. The minority factions might even be understood as
rudimentary "feet" in their own right
-- hoping to develop. However the tragedy is that the "right" foot
evaluates itself as "right" and the "left" as "wrong" or
misguided, whereas the "left"
foot sees itself as "right" and the other foot as "wrong".
Any animal with such motor coordination challenges could only limp and trip
-- to its own dangerous disadvantage in a turbulent environment. This is
even more problematic in that the situation is framed in terms of the dominant
"foot" as being regrettably handicapped in its forward movement
by an "opposition",
however honourable rather than "irresponsible" (as so often claimed).
"compromises" are far from the fluidity required by walking (as
further discussed below) -- where it would clearly be ridiculous for one
foot to blame the other for constraints on the ability to progress "forward" or "change".
Ironically such a metaphor is implicit in a well-known study of multinational
Moss Kanter, When Giants Learn To
More generally this epitomizes the challenge of any value faced with any
"other" -- notably as played out under headings such as "multiculturalism"
and "immigration", or "two culture" dynamics. This dysfunctional
cumbersomeness might be seen as a characteristic of the unself-reflexiveness
of an unconscious civilization, as argued by John
Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization,
Polyhedra: connecting "pillars" by "sides": An
earlier paper on polyhedral
global governance explored ways of "building" on the architectural
metaphor by configuring the "sides" between the pillars, raising
the value question that, if strategic truth is indeed many-sided, should the
governance of the future necessarily be "polyhedral"? In developing
the insights gained in the above-mentioned set of Encyclopedia projects,
strategic dilemmas associated with the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992)
were configured experimentally as a polyhedral tensegrity (Configuring
Globally and Contending Locally: shaping the global network of local bargains
by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral issues, 1992).
The possibility of polyhedral value configurations is explored below***.
Polarization and its possible dynamic reframing
Pillars, poles and stakes : In addition
to the "pillar" metaphor,
globalized society is much challenged by its degree of polarization -- with
its implicit value and ethical implications. As noted by Derek Kelly (Unipolar
and Multipolar World Orders Are Unworkable, 2005), some have
argued for the complexities of a multipolar
world order, whereas the US has argued for unipolarity (The
National Security Strategy of the United States of America Report,
17 September 2002) even though it is expected that "multipolarity
will come in time" (Charles Krauthammer, An
American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World, 12 February 2004).
It could be fruitfully argued that the "pillars" central to
the early empires of both Hammurabi and
Ashoka (mentioned above) were indeed single "poles" in each
Metaphorically the use of "pole" of course reinforces tendencies
-- without offering any guidance to resolution of the divisive dynamics evoked
thereby. These might even be understood as taking the form of a collective bipolar
disorder -- with its alternation between manic and depressive conditions.
Curiously, seemingly on a smaller scale, values are also associated with
"stakes" that are understood to be variously held by "stakeholders"
-- typically gathered together to resolve differences in support of collective
initiatives. Stake of course comes closer to an indication of tangible or
intangible property over which ownership is claimed and from which a pallisade
may be constructed. The failure to use "pillar-holder" or
"pole-holder" is possibly indicative of an important distinction.
Polarization in magnetic fields: Physics offers very useful
visualizations of polarization in terms of magnetic fields. These helpfully
highlight the contrast between attraction between similarly charged poles
and repulsion between differently charged poles. These insights have been
fundamental to the development of electric motors and dynamos -- themselves
fundamental to industrialization and globalization. There is no question
of endeavouring to "eliminate" repulsion
in order to achieve universal "attraction" -- as might be said
to be the value bias in society. But there would seem to be a strong case
for applying such thinking to the management of the dynamics of polarization
in a conflicted society.
Attractors and repulsors: The above
example is of course highly simplistic in comparison with related explorations
and models in physics and notably within the complexity sciences in dealing
with multiple attractors and repulsors. One effort to adapt such understanding
to the challenges of the global problematique and resolutique has been articulated
in the following image, discussed elsewhere (Imagining
the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation,
2007). This was related to the challenge of a set of 8 "games"
between "governor" and "governed", notably as characteristic
of any ecosystem, whether natural or psychosocial (Cardioid
Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the
heart of sustainable relationship, 2005).
|Figure 1: Interrelating problematique
and resolutique in terms of "real" and "imaginary"
To the extent that values may indeed be understood as "strange attractors",
as argued elsewhere (Human
Values as Strange Attractors: coevolution of classes of governance principles,
1993), the special challenge lies in their paradoxical relationship when
in polarities. The associated cognitive twist may perhaps be usefully modelled
by the Mobius strip along the lines explored in the following table discussed
Metaphors -- to enable a cycle of transformation between epistemological
modes, 2007; Psychosocial
Work Cycle: Beyond the plane of Möbius,
between polarized attractor-repulsors
Cyclic relationships: Of related interest is the possibility of visualizing
the relationship between distinct attractors in terms of dynamics mapped
onto the Mobius strip (Psychosocial
Work Cycle: beyond the plane of Möbius, 2007).
This helpfully holds paradoxical shifts in perspective without loss of continuity.
There is the interesting possibility that individual or collective identity,
and the coherence required of governance determined by contrary or complementary
influences, might be associated with cycles most simply represented by such
a strip (Emergence
of Cyclical Psycho-social Identity: sustainability as "psyclically" defined,
2007). The descriptive paradox of the one-sided Mobius strip is also indicative
of the relationship between the radically contrasting descriptive modes of
kataphasis and apophasis potentially relevant to any attempt to "describe"
What You Want: problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic
Coherent encoding of differences: a Chinese perspective: Another interesting
approach to polarization, developed within the Chinese worldview, is that
of the 8-fold system of trigrams of the BaGua.
In relation to any western set of "pillars", this might be succinctly
described as the minimal formal codification of differences (between those
pillars) such as to highlight degrees of polarization and complementarity
-- avoiding problematic use of words and their confusing
are separately articulated through metaphor). As such it constitutes a
pattern of associations of requisite systemic complexity. It is especially useful
in that it has been articulated in terms of a set of the same order (namely
8) as sets of pillars (4-8) whilst clarifying the relationship between sets
of smaller number (3 or 4) and polarization itself (namely 2). However, in
contrast with the western case where any form of "polarization" is
considered problematic in a psychosocial context, within the BaGua framework,
such polarization is essential -- even vitally essential -- to the viability
and sustainability of the system represented.
As a traditional system, although widely distributed in symbolic form over
centuries, it is necessarily represented statically (notably as a BaGua mirror)
with an implied dynamic. However, using web-based technology it is possible
to explore a variety of animations (Animation
of Classical BaGua Arrangements,
2008). One example is shown below.
Implications of unforeseen metaphors of coherence: The
particular relevance to the argument here is that it illustrates how the
dynamics between distinct "pillars" might
be more fruitfully understood as the basis for a coherent, communicable value
system. Given its importance to Chinese thinking, it merits further consideration
from western perspectives in the light of the powerful arguments of Susantha
a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999). He specifically
highlights the possibility that such cultures are likely to develop viable
new forms of organization and technology on the basis of metaphors that are
a challenge to western mindsets and habitual modes of thought. This could be
of considerable significance with respect to skills in correlative thinking
(A C Graham, Yin-Yang
and the Nature of Correlative Thinking. Singapore,
The Institute of East Asian Philosophies, 1986).
The point is well illustrated from an unexpected source. John Adams (Languages
go after the money, Financial Times, 1 Sptember 2008) who
notes: I am waiting for new Chinese financial instruments
to emerge from the present credit crunch which have no foreign equivalent – or
ready English translation. If such can be said of "tangible" financial
values, what is to be expected in the case of less tangible values -- perhaps
associated with the BaGua? The role of feng
shui in the financial
sector has already been widely remarked -- especially with respect to the
architecture of financial institutions.
However, given the systemic incompetence of the institutions
managing society's tangible values -- as recently demonstrated
by the drama of the subprime crisis -- is it possible that this offers
an excellent model of the manner in which those institutions managing society's
more fundamental intangible
both confusing themselves and misleading those whom they expect to have confidence
in their expertise?
Especially challenging with respect to inhabitual metaphors is the credibility
with which the connectivity they imply can be communicated and comprehended,
as discussed elsewhere (Theories
of Correspondences -- and potential equivalences between them in correlative
thinking, 2007). This challenge may come to be most dramatically
evident in the ability of some cultures to engage with less tightly ordered
connectivity and to develop viable structures and processes through it --
as perhaps exemplified by the conventionally counter-intuitive success of
the open source philosophy,
long meaningless in terms of conventional "business models".
Value of central "emptiness":
The values of "usefulness" and "profitability" of the
configuration of BaGua around an empty centre (typically represented with
the Tao symbol) are perhaps well illustrated for the Chinese by the classic
quote from Lao
Tzu (Tao Te Ching): The names
that can be named are not definitive names. Naming engenders ten
thousand things... Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub. It
is the centre hole that makes it useful... Therefore profit
comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there.
The paradoxical importance of such central emptiness and nothingness in
relation to values has been explored elsewhere (Import
of Nothingness and Emptiness through Happening and Mattering, 2008).
Incompatible value frameworks: "token agreement" vs "bloody
The most fundamental reality with respect to the universe of values is the
degree of disagreement engendered between value frameworks and the manner
in which this drives and justifies value-based conflict, especially through
the inspiration of faith-based systems of governance. Such intractable disagreements
are only feebly addressed in practice. The Global Ethic presented
at the Parliament
of the World's Religions (Chicago, 1993) remains a "draft" with
little indication of the emergence of any articulation responsive to the
value-based bloody conflicts since then -- indicative of a degree of urgency
perhaps commensurate with climate change and the food crisis..
Agreement: This situation is matched by an obsessively
simplistic quest for "agreement" in international discourse, epitomized
decision-making". The most evident consequence is the token nature
of such agreement and the superficial initiatives to which it leads, avoiding
the challenges of incompatibilities between value and ethical frameworks.
This is most evident in the manner in which authorities renege on formal
pledges -- as is evident in the commitments made by the G8 to developing
countries. It is more tragically evident in the cynical promotion of
"equality" as a fundamental value -- despite the evident pretence
in the face of inequality, epitomized by the emergence of a "superclass"
(David Rothkopf, Superclass: the global power elite and the world they
2008) and the vain pursuit of identity values through luxury (Hari Kunzru, The
expensive search for what money can never buy, The Guardian,
14 August 2008).
Incommensurability: Given the manner in which philosophy
and epistemology underpin the methodology of scientific inquiry, this would
suggest the need for more radical explorations of the possibility of structures
built on (value) incommensurability (Beyond
Method: engaging opposition in psycho-social organization, 1981; Using
Disagreements for Superordinate Frame Configuration, 1992). Given
the conflicts to which they give rise, the pathetic incapacity of religions
to process their disagreements confirms the inadequacy of approaches dependent
on "coalescence". A similar point might be made with regard to the natural
and social sciences and the manner in which various "sciences" are
marginalized, as noted above in the exploration of Paul
Method: outline of an anarchistic theory of knowledge, 1975). Transdisciplinarity
and interdisciplinarity, to the extent they exist, may well be challenged
as exercises in tokenism. Any "agreement" between disciplines is fundamentally
Problematic conflation of polarities: Understandings of "agreement" vs "disagreement" have
become confused with the obsessive pursuit of "positive" and rejection
of "negative" -- both polarities being simplistically conflated
with that between "good" and "bad", with the latter typically
demonized as "evil". This is systemically dysfunctional as argued
Positive Avoiding Negativity: management challenge of positive vs negative,
2005). Problematic consequences include:
- efforts to occupy the moral and ethical high ground (at the expense of
- the "with us or against us" framing of intervention in Iraq
by the Coalition of the Willing and subsequent security measures in the "war
- marginalization and demonization of those who do not share fundamental
values (as "unbelievers")
- inability to frame disagreement using conceptual tools emerging from
the subtler insights of new disciplines (complexity sciences) or old "wisdom"
traditions, as was only too evident in recent primitive debates in the
UN Security Council
- inherent contradiction in the fact that disagreement, rather than agreement,
is what attracts media coverage and audiences
- problematic initiatives to "harmonize" different perspectives
within a simplistic "universal" framework, eliminating expression
of diversity except in token form
- promotion of "our values" as norms against which the behaviour
is to be judged in terms of their potential threat
"Walking" as a metaphor: There is however a simpler "vehicle" metaphor,
widely understood, that merits careful consideration as a means of responding
to the seeming incommensurability of value frameworks in practice -- even
when they apply in the same geopolitical or cultural context. The metaphor
is the process of walking and the alternation of perspective it implies.
Rescher (The Strife of Systems,, 1985), as quoted above, concludes
But the time has come to put this behind us -- not the strife, that is,
which is ineliminable, but the felt need to somehow end it rather than
simply accept it and take it in stride.
This said however, Rescher's argument does not necessarily preclude the
possibility of new ways to take the strife "in stride". Indeed it has been
argued elsewhere that new forms of transdisciplinarity may effectively emerge
from "striding" (Transcending
Duality as the Conceptual Equivalent of Learning to Walk, 1994; Walking
Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2007). This
points to the merit of animating the value "pillars" of institutions
as "feet", as noted above and illustrated elsewhere (Animating
the Representation of Europe: visualizing the coherence of international
institutions using dynamic animal-like structures, 2004).
Of special interest is the relationship between such movement and the alternation
supposedly characteristic of democratic governance (Alternation
between complementary policy conditions, 1995; Metaphors
of Alternation: an exploration of their significance for development policy-making,
Alternation for Development, 1984).
Enantiomorphism: The cultural historian William
Irwin Thompson (From Nation to Emanation; Four Cultural Ecologies
of the West, 1985) has approached these issues from a quite different
direction and has articulated most intriguing possibilities. For him: "Values
are not objects, they are relationships. When you overlay one pattern with
another, a third pattern emerges, a moiré pattern" (p. 38).
He argues that: "Truth cannot be expressed in an ideology, for Truth
is that which overlights the conflict of opposed ideologies....The Truth
cannot be known in an ideology, but it can be embodied in an ecology; anything
less does violence to human nature and to human culture." (p. 36).
In discussing the possibility of an enantiomorphic polity, Thompson argues:
In a polity that has the shape of opposites, an enantiomorphic polity,
the prophetic wisdom of William Blake's 'In opposition is true friendship'
will be finally understood and not just poetically....If one does have
an appreciation of the phenomenology of opposites, in which we become what
we hate, then a politics of compassion, as contrasted with a politics of
violent conflict, begins to become a cultural possibility. (p. 37-39)
Thompson quotes an articulation of this enantiomorphic polity from E.
F. Shumacher (A Guide for the Perplexed, 1978):
The pairs of opposites, of which freedom and order and growth and decay
are the most basic, put tension into the world, a tension that sharpens
man's sensitivity and increases his self-awareness. No real understanding
is possible without awareness of these pairs of opposites which permeate
everything man does...Justice is a denial of mercy, and mercy a denial
of justice. Only a higher force can reconcile these opposites: wisdom.
The problem cannot be solved, but wisdom can transcend it. Similarly societies
need stability and change, tradition and innovation, public interest and
private interest, planning and laissez-faire policies, order and freedom,
growth and decay. Everywhere society's health depends on the simultaneous
pursuit of mutually opposed activities or aims. The adoption of a final
solution means a kind of death sentence for man's humanity and spells either
cruelty or dissolution, generally both. (p. 127).
Such arguments have been further developed by Christopher Burr Jones (Gaia
Futures: The Emerging Mythology and Politics of the Earth, 1989).
Value-based crisis: values as instruments of memetic
Value systems in conflict: Much is made of the "clash of civilizations" (Samuel
P. Huntington, The
Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, 1996)
which follows from simplistic approaches to "disagreement" and
naive expectations that everyone should be in "agreement" --
"encouraged" if necessary (as exemplified by European responses
to the Irish
"No" vote in 2008). The situation is increasingly exacerbated by
widespread recognition of double
standards by those promoting agreement with particular value frameworks.
It is however curious that remedies are sought in terms of a single standard
at a time when ethically responsible accounting systems are exploring the
remedial notion of a value-based "triple
bottom line", if not various forms of a "quadruple" one
(as discussed in Spherical
Accounting: using geometry to embody developmental integrity, 2004).
The crisis is most evident with respect to values variously attached to "environment",
"peace", "democracy" and "respect". It is most
dramatic with respect to the
"land" or its features ("topos"), with which cultures
identify, and their related sense of encroachment and threat (cf Varieties
of Encroachment, 2004; Darrell Addison Posey, Cultural
and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, 1999, for the United Nations
Value manipulation: The responses to this value crisis
are quite extraordinarily "twisted" in their manipulative use of
- "truth": as was most recently evident in the
UN Security Council debates on the Russia-Georgia crisis
- "agreement": is typically achieved under pressure
and through horse-trading divorced from any ethical considerations
- "harmony": is notably achieved by reducing
diversity, epitomized by the elimination of species framed as "pests"
- "saving human life": has become the standard
unquestionable claim in dubious arguments under which highly controversial
policies are justified
- "justice": is increasingly pursued secretively,
notably with selective manipulation of evidence; politicization of evidence
has now become the norm (Politicization
of Evidence in the Plastic Turkey Era, 2003).
- "rights": there is a sense in which non-tokenized
truth can only be guaranteed through "torture" of people, animals
or materials. In the case of animals, it is reported that some 150 million
were used for research purposes in 2007 ***
- "presumption of ethical behaviour": is now
used as a value "trump card", by analogy to "innocent until
proven guilty", although it is no longer possible to prove that those
with the power to conceal unethical behaviour are not in fact engaged in
it; incontrovertible proof of problematic behaviour is framed as relating
only to exceptional cases rather than being indicative of potentially widespread
- "free speech": under conditions in which there
is no longer any means of discovering criteria for censorship or what has
been censored by creative interpretation of those criteria
- "moral equivalence": the validity of any comparison
of incidents in terms of moral or ethical values is now contested, as ably
articulated in the case of the US by Jeane
Kirkpatrick (The Myth of Moral Equivalence, Imprimis,
15, January 1986, 1) following her period as the first woman US Ambassador
to the United Nations. This understanding is clearly relevant to any contextual
assessment of the Russian intervention in Georgia.
- "social responsibility": in the case of major
multinational corporations, notably those adhering to the principles of
the UN's Global Compact,
none is taken to task for avoidance of taxation (*****)
As noted above, fundamental human values are now used as a fig leaf to disguise
other agendas in a manner that makes it impossible to prove otherwise with
any credibility. Some indication of this is evident in the comments of Polly
legacy is a puzzle of moral contradictions, The Guardian,
17 June 2008) to the effect that: "The government's reluctance to
challenge culturally destructive forces makes any talk of values meaningless" and "But
values or a vision of the good society are meaningless without the confidence
to confront cultural attitudes".
Memetic warfare: It is therefore fruitful
to consider how in an emerging global knowledge society "warfare" may
well take place "non violently" -- by other means as notably argued
by Johan Galtung (Cultural
Violence, Journal of Peace Research, 1990) . Beyond the
tradition of propaganda, transmogrified into "news
as a basis for "information
warfare", lies the as yet ill-defined but already active domain
warfare". Appropriately arrayed and deployed, values may well be
the key elements in the weaponry of memetic warfare (cf Missiles,
Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare: navigation of strategic interfaces
in multidimensional knowledge space, 2001; Robert Jensen, The
Delusion Revolution: we're on the road to extinction and in denial, AlterNet,
15 August 2008). Such warfare is partially conflated with the emerging significance
of "virtual warfare" (Review
of the Range of Virtual Wars: a strategic comparison with the global war against
Moral warfare: Seemingly "ethical warfare" is
poorly dissociated in the literature from the "ethics of warfare". "Moral
warfare" was notably framed in a much-quoted poem by John
Greenleaf Whittier, 1807–1892 (The
Moral Warfare), in which the penultimate stanza reads:
Our fathers to their graves have gone;
Their strife is past, their triumph won;
But sterner trials wait the race
Which rises in their honored place;
A moral warfare with the crime
And folly of an evil time.
Whilst the literature focuses mainly on the morality of war, the importance
of "moral warfare" has been stressed by the US military strategist John
Boyd (Boyd and Military
Strategy) who defines it as:
the destruction of the enemy's will to win, via alienation from allies
(or potential allies) and internal fragmentation. Ideally resulting in
the "dissolution of the moral bonds that permit an organic whole [organization]
to exist. (i.e., breaking down the mutual trust and common outlook)
Value warfare: Curiously, but perhaps
only too appropriately, "value
warfare" (as a form of memetic warfare, in contrast with "valuing
warfare" for economic reasons or military glory ) first seems to have
been discussed by Robert Cooperstein (Some
Notes on the Reproduction of Human Capital, 1974):
Growing up is a gradually increasing and forced addiction to value deformation. “Forced” because
the dictates of simple self-preservation in the familial cold war obligates
the child to adopt the weapons of his enemies who have already mastered
the techniques of value warfare; "gradually increasing" because
as in any cold war, the maintenance of the balance of power requires an
armaments race in which each contestant must continually improve his weapons
(the family attains the moment of détente when it substitutes the
trading of covert hostilities for more open attacks, physical or otherwise); "addiction" since
the child must swallow ever-enlarged doses of value in order to remain
in the same position vis-à-vis his parents, even as it cumulatively
drains away his vitality. Value deformation is a remedy which enables the
child to bear the illness while aggravating it. It should be remembered
that as he comes of age this war of provocations becomes less and less
unilateral, which is to say that the child comes to equally characterize
his adult masters.
The term "value warfare" is entirely consistent with the anticipation
of faith-based communities and their governments of an ultimate battle between
the forces of "good" and "evil" as part of the "end-times"
scenarios of the three Abrahamic
religions. These preoccupations are however more commonly discussed in
the extensive literature on "spiritual
warfare". This is readily framed as the basis for the ongoing Christian "crusade"
against the Islamic world and the corresponding Islamic jihad against
Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham (advisor to a succession of presidents)
and one of the USA’s most outspoken critics of Islam, indicated that
he had relief workers "poised and ready" to roll into Iraq to provide for
the population’s post-war physical and spiritual needs (Crusaders
sending in missionaries after the Blitzkrieg, 2003; Christianizing
the Enemy, 2003).
Instruments of value warfare: Cooperstein however then
The implements of value warfare, first appropriated in the familial environment,
will be found useful later on everywhere, including in the child's relations
with his first playmates. Value spreads exponentially.
Values are effectively capable of "bending" knowledge space (as
recognized in use of "bent" as a descriptor) and this may even
come to characterize any definition of a value in knowledge society. Ironically,
the historical association of the value "gravitas"
with the phenomenon of "gravity" is perhaps indicative of such
an understanding by Isaac Newton (John Noble Wilford, The
Man Who Grasped The Heavens' Gravitas, The New York Times,
8 October 2004).
Following Cooperstein, the possible "implements of value warfare" calling
for recognition may be readily explored through widely used military metaphors
Sustainable Development Strategies through Avoidance of Military Metaphors,
1998). These highlight the possibility of analogues of to:
- biochemical weapons, as is already recognized in the terms viral
marketing and viral
adverstising, specifically recognized to be analogous to the spread
of pathological and computer viruses
- ammunition of any kind, as already understood in "targetting" potential
markets and customers
- landmines, as already recognized in reference to "minefields" in
interpersonal and intergroup relations, with all the capacity to disable
- weapons of mass destruction, as possibly to be recognized in the use
and operation of "weapons of mass distraction" (Destructive
Weapons of Mass Distraction vs Distractive Weapons of Mass Destruction,
- nuclear weapons, might be fruitfully understood as those capable of destroying
bonds of relationship in the community and the "nuclear family",
appropriately recognized by cultures resistant to cultural violence and spiritual
pollution, possibly by comparison with biochemical warfare (Pico Iyer, Battling "Spiritual
Pollution", Time, 28 November 1983; R. Beck, Spiritual
Pollution: The dilemma of sociomoral disgust and the ethic of love, Journal
of Psychology and Theology, 43, 2006, pp 53-65)
- binary weapons, as seemingly innocuous values (held in isolation) which,
when combined, are extremely destructive, perhaps already to be recognized
in techniques for destabilizing groups through infiltration by two, seemingly
innocent, but destructiuvely conflicting tendencies
- camouflage, smokescreens, decoys, and countermeasures as
noted above when honourable values are used to disguise other agendas
- value tanks, as corresponding to strategic think tanks whose implications
are discussed elsewhere (Meta-challenges
of the Future for Networking through Think-tanks, 2005; "Tank-thoughts" from "Think-tanks":
metaphors constraining development of global governance, 2003);
some think tanks may already be understood to be operating as "value
tanks", if many intentional communities are not to be considered in
The non-triviality of the use of such weaponry in "value warfare" is
illustrated (at the time of writing) by the assassination as "spies" of
unarmed, innocent, western women aid workers seeking to educate girls in
rural Afghanistan -- an "unquestionably worthy" initiative by "universal" standards
-- against the values upheld in that area by the Taliban, thereby demonstrated
to be totally "unworthy", unreasonable, and therefore only "worthy" of
Sharing value and ethical frameworks
Understanding of how values and ethics are shared has long echoed assumptions
regarding the appropriateness of hierarchical patterns of organization.
Ethical frameworks are articulated by the few, on behalf of the many, in the
expectation that the many will subscribe without question to the standards
structured in this way. This is typical of most declarations of rights, ethics
and credos exemplified, at the time of writing, by the European attitudes to
the Irish "No" vote. It is such prefabricated value sets that people and
groups may "have" and "uphold".
Such understanding does not accord with the above-mentioned insights of Chris
Mowles regarding the dynamics of value emergence and sharing in operational
contexts in practice.
A major difficulty is of course the manner in which defenders of any set of
values typically perceive themselves as responding to the sound of a "different
in the words of Henry
David Thoreau, "however measured or far away". The phrase
was echoed by M. Scott Peck (The
Different Drum: Community Making and Peace,
1987) in contrast with his study of the "people of the lie" (People
of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil, 1983). The difficulty is
that it is "others", upholding different values, that then tend to be perceived
as "people of the lie".
It is only then that "pillars" are understood to need "reinforcement" by
connecting them together in practice to form pallisades and fortresses to defend
a value system and a way of life. It is in this sense that the emergence of
"gated communities" may be understood as having their value analogues, as argued
Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge
Compatibility of different value sets:
Especially challenging are situations when both the number of values and the
terms used to describe them are different. How then to "collapse" one set or
"expand" the other to achieve a basis for comparison? This is even more challenging
when the number in the set has some sacred significance. Typically those of
one culture will emphasize 5 values (as with the Pillars of Islam) as distinct
from 6 or 7 values favoured by some other belief system (Representation,
Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the Role of Number, 1978). The situation is more
complicated where there may be 30 values, as in many declarations, without
it being clear how they might be clustered for comparison with some smaller
set. Even more challenging is the fact that the smaller the set the more likely
that much of the significance of the terms used will be implict (even elusively
paradoxical) rather than explicit, as discussed elsewhere (Distinguishing
Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980)
Shared standards: It is therefore relevant to note the insights of David
Power: the social dynamics of globalization, 2008) as articulated in
an interview for
Policy Innovations (May 2008):
I argue that globalization can best be understood as the rise to dominance
of shared “standards” underlying newly transnational and international
networks in areas including media, trade, language, and even some forms of
culture. These new global networks link people together as never before --
but they also generate problems of insider/outsider dynamics that raise challenging
ethical questions, for to become part of a global network often means adopting
a dominant standard at the expense of alternative ones that could mediate
the same activity. I devote a significant part of the book to examining these
ethical issues, including trying to consider what we owe to people left out
of new global networks and whether (and how) we should try to destabilize
a standard that has become dominant and threatens to eliminate local and
less powerful -- but nevertheless deeply valued -- attachments
of one kind or another. It is in this ethical assessment of the new power
at work in global networks that I try to consider what a "fairer
Dominant standard: Problematic in the above statement is
the notion of a "dominant
a context in which many distinct global networks each perceive their own standards
as more fundamental, more dominant, or worthy of being so -- through a selective
process of self-appreciation quite analogous to the operation of email spam
filtering ("white lists" and "black lists").
characteristic of global society is that many can hold this view -- hence the
of civilizations" and the degree of alienation from supposedly global
standards that may well not be clearly articulated or unambiguously understood.
Ironically significant progress with respect to global civilization may only
prove possible when efforts towards a "global standard" are abandoned
-- as proved to be the case with the "gold standard".
With the current approach to such matters, it would appear that the probability
of universal agreement on a set of values (of a non-token nature) is equivalent
to that of everyone being persuaded to speak Esperanto.
Robustness through triangulation and symmetry: The interesting
question is the extent to which the integrity of triangulated value frameworks
is amenable to being shared within a network that is ordered in some compatible
manner. Richer networks also function by triangulation and acquire their robustness
through triangulation. This suggests that the greater the degree of structural
isomorphism between value networks and social networks, then the greater the
extent to which values will be shared.
An earlier paper argued that networks achieve higher degrees of robustness
and empowerment to the extent that they incorporate a degree of symmetry --
notably as reflected in electronic communication patterns (Polyhedral
Empowerment of Networks through Symmetry: psycho-social implications for organization
and global governance, 2008). This suggests that a corresponding argument
could be made for configurations of value and ethical frameworks. How would
the experience of a "robust" set of values or ethics contrast with one less
robust according to such criteria?
What might such a polyhedral configuration of values or ethics look like --
and how might one engage with it meaningfully? Should "ethical charters" benefit
from such representations? Venturing further, is it possible that any reconciliation
between "incommensurable" value sets based on 5-fold and 6-fold symmetry is
only to be found in even more complex topologies (Hyperspace
Clues to the Psychology of the Pattern that Connects, 2003)? The exploration
would certainly be valuable, given the violence that is engendered by such
apparent incompatibilities. It is of particular interest that the Yi
seemingly emphasizing the 6-fold, is recognized in Chinese culture as basic
to the 5-fold pattern of the Wu
Xing (Five Phases or Five Elements). This is well represented diagrammatically
in a study by B. Svarog (The
basic symmetry of I Ching).
is whether this is a key to understanding what enables a set of values to "take"
in contrast to the very conventional checklists of ethical principles in extant
declarations. The need for innovation in the structure of ethical articulations
has been argued elsewhere (A
Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2007; Structuring
Mnemonic Encoding of Development Plans and Ethical Charters using Musical Leitmotivs,
of Declarations challenging traditional patterns, 1993; Structure
of concluding declarations, 1995; Distinguishing
Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980).
Configuring sets of values and principles as polyhedra
Beyond value checklists: As intimated above, the call here
is for innovation in the structuring of sets of values and ethical principles
beyond the conventional checklist. Reasons may be summarized as ensuring :
- a greater degree of integrity of such sets
- interrelating complementary values so that their function in a system of
checks and balances becomes evident
- mnemonic support for insight into a richer system of values that may need
to be more complex than is comfortably understood by other means
- a guiding template for relevant, and possibly vital, communication pathways
- insight into the manner in which some values may be less evident or relevant
from particular perspectives -- namely the challenge of horizon effects and
- a form of articulation more attractive and intriguing for communication
(notably through the media) than checklists
- possibilities for simplifying and complexifying the set in response to
- possibilities for reconfiguring the geometry of a value set to relate it
to sets of values based on various numbers of values -- the challenge of
"packing" and "unpacking" value sets
Problematic compatibility between value sets: Given the fundamental nature
of such value sets, the challenge might be described as one of "sacred
In other words how are value sets of varying numbers of elements to be related?
Examples for consideration include:
- 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- 59 articles of the European Convention on Human Rights
- 38 articles of the OAS Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
- 25 articles of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam
- 46 articles of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- 16 general principles of the Earth Charter
- Buddhist 8-fold way
- Judeo-Christian "10
Commandments" (and their Islamic
equivalents in the Qur'an)
Curiously, in the haste to impose any given value set, it would seem that
few marvel at the variety of understandings of fundamental values and the challenge
they pose to ensuring a degree of integrity to their relationship -- especially
when many of them may apply together in the same geopolitical region.
Folding and enfolding value configurations: Since these
are indeed understood to be fundamental, there is a need to understand how
they "collapse" into
smaller sets, then implying what is explicated in larger sets. The challenge
of the articulation as a smaller set is that verbal articulations are variously
understood and the subtleties articulated in larger sets are lost. But equally
the specific language used in the larger sets for particular audiences may
alienate some who prefer implicit formulations enabling interpretation "between
"Changing gear" for appropriate "transmission": However the technical challenge
is to provide a medium in which people can explore for themselves the relationships
between values variously articulated. Such a medium should enable people to
get a feel for the various possibilities. Ironically this might be compared
to the capacity to change gear in a vehicle -- remembering that heavy duty
trucks have a large number of gears. This metaphor is potentially relevant
to the challenge of ensuring a degree of "transmission"
through a cognitive gearbox into strategic movement, as discussed below. An
alternative metaphor is that of changing tuning systems in music in order to
enable dialogue in different contexts. (*** birdcages)
Such metaphors recall the work of Gareth
Morgan (Images of Organization,
1986) in describing the 8 metaphors through which
organizations tend to be viewed: Machine, Organism, Brain,
Culture, Political System, Psychic Prison, Flux and Transformation,
and Instrument of Domination. In this light, operating in any
one of these metaphors of course reveals its own truth. What insights emerge
from considering a set of values through one or other of these metaphors? What
understanding facilitates the art of shifting between metaphors, as with the
art of gear shifting in a racing car?
Value "homes", "shelters" and "accommodation": But
of particular interest here is the vehicle metaphor ("machine")
discussed below and the house/home metaphor. With respect to the latter, as
implied above, a set of pillars does not make for a sheltered environment --
except in the most clement conditions. Understood as a home, the challenge
of designing a set of values or ethics is somewhat analogous to that of constructing
a shelter. In terms of Christopher
Timeless Way of Building, 1979), it
is the challenge of eliciting the subtle quality of a "good place
to be" for which he developed a "pattern language" (A
Pattern Language: towns, buildings, construction, 1977).
Elsewhere this has been used experimentally as a template for the elaboration
of patterns more relevant to the psycho-social challenge (5-fold
Pattern Language, 1984).
Participative design: It could be argued that to the extent
that value sets are articulated in ways other than checklists, their architecture
fails significantly to explore geometric possibilities of polyhedra that might
better respond to the challenges identified above. With his commitment to design,
Alexander himself has gone on to focus on the Nature
of Order: an essay on the art of building and the nature of the universe (2003-2004)
-- presumably of relevance to future consideration of the structuring of value
sets. Such possibilities can indeed be best appreciated through
From "value frameworks" to "value vehicles":
statics vs dynamics ?
It is readily argued that value frameworks have been extensively appropriated
by those of legalistic disposition. Hence the conventional format of declarations
of values by bodies claiming authority and a mandate to do so. In this sense
value frameworks are essentially static and designed to be so -- as emblematic
of the status quo. The European Convention on Human Rights is, for example,
proudly referred to as “the jewel in
the crown” of the Council of Europe. By contrast, in the case of organizations
and strategic initiatives, efforts may be made to get "buy in" to any articulation
of values from those expected to work together -- often through a process of
refinement of the set of values, perhaps as an ethical charter.
This may be understood metaphorically as designing a "home" for
the initiative -- perhaps one to reflect its status and standing through appropriate
design elements, namely a home of which its inhabitants can be proud. Christopher
Alexander has promoted a process of participative design (The
Oregon Experiment, 1975), subsequently an inspiration to open
source software development. It might be asked when such a process had been
explored with respect to the design of ethical charters or value-based constitutuioins.
But, to the extent that the challenge of the future is one of complex turbulent
and changing conditions, it may be far more appropriate to consider the value
structure as a vehicle that can be suitably reconfigured in response to those
conditions -- to enable them to be appropriately navigated.
Formative models: Returning to the formative influence of kites and aerodynamics
on the thinking of Wittgenstein (Susan G. Sterrett, Wittgenstein Flies
a Kite: a story of models of wings and models of the world, 2005), consideration
could be fruitfully given to reversing the direction of influence. Suppose
models" and their value equivalents were to be understood as designs
for vehicles for the navigation of knowledge space -- through the emerging
knowledge society. An intuitive recognition of this is to be found in the phrase
"flying a kite" (as with a "launching a trial balloon").
Indeed projects and hypotheses are criticized metaphorically with phrases such
as "it wont fly"
or "it did not get off the ground". The cultural context in which
academics endeavour to design and "fly" an extraordinary variety
of models might then be delightfully caricatured by the title of the cult movie Those
Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines.
Models as "vehicles": More intriguing even is the possibility that, for
some spiritual and religious traditions, the value frameworks that are so fundamental
to their disciplines of meditation may indeed be better understood as vehicles.
Effectively the associated sets of categories -- exceedingly detailed in the
case of Buddhism for example -- are more analogous to the control systems of
a multidimensional vehicle, as argued elsewhere (Navigating
Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms
through movement, 2002). Buddhism explicitly distinguishes between
a greater and a lesser "vehicle", in Mahayana and Hinayana
respectively (as discussed in Noonautics
Four modes of travelling and navigating the knowledge "universe"? 2006).
This recognition has the great merit of establishing the contemporary relevance
of traditions (whose insights are often disparaged), as well as offering insights
into how value vehicles can be usefully
"driven" -- whether or not other driving styles are to be preferred.
Sets of value "pillars" might then be understood as crude approximations
to (and variants of) the value set of the Eightfold Way -- or its analogues
in other traditions (such as the Beatitudes of
The possibility is consistent with the commitment of Arthur
Young (designer of the Bell helicopter)
to exploring the possibilities of a "psychopter" as the "winged
Bell Notes: a journey from physics to metaphysics, 1979; Geometry
of Meaning, 1976/1984). Is there a case for exploring how the so-called
"jewel in the crown" of the Council of Europe (namely the European
Convention on Human Rights) might be understood as the collective
equivalent of the "diamond vehicle" of
-- a metaphor otherwise explored elsewhere (Patterning
Archetypal Templates of Emergent Order: implications of diamond faceting for
The vehicle metaphor is especially intriguing given the psychoactive (if not
hypnotic) fascination of a rotating wheel -- to be understood in this context
as metaphorically indicative of a value as an attractor. It might be asked
to what degree the development of wheels, and wheeled vehicles -- so fundamental
to industrialized society -- was associated with the development of a form
of cognitive disciplines in relation to such psychoactive fascination. The
question is then whether the challenge of configuring sets of values could
be explored in terms of the design of new forms of cognitive vehicle appropriate
to the navigation of the emergent knowledge society -- through appropriate
management of the cognitive fascination of those attractors/repulsors.
Cognitive "spiders" and "feet": Curiously
prominence is given to the
"web" metaphor as fundamental to the networks of knowledge society,
and to the use of search engine "spiders" (or web
crawlers) to identify what has been caught (as discussed in From
Information Highways to Songlines of the Noosphere: global configuration of
hypertext pathways as a prerequisite for meaningful collective transformation,
1996). There is therefore a case for exploring the navigational challenges
of the Buddhist Noble
Eightfold Way in terms of the coordination challenges of arachnid locomotion.
This is especially so given the arguments by NASA for spidernaut
robotics (Nabil I. Alshurafa and Justin T. Harmon, Artificial
spider: eight-legged arachnid and autonomous learning of locomotion, Unmanned
This argument extends that above regarding the merit
of representing value-based strategic "pillars" as "feet" --
through suitable animations. In the case of the 8-fold BaGua, it is far from
irrelevant to this argument that enacting the principles is intimately related
to the practice of a distinctive martial art, Baguazhang.
More generally it might be argued that the use of katas,
choreographed patterns of movement common to both the Japanese performing and
martial arts, imply distinct forms of "hold" -- perhaps usefully to be associated
with those required for (spider-like) navigation of cognitive reality
according to the principles of the Eightfold Way.
Aeronautics and noonautics: Such cognitive possibilities in relation to the
use of value frameworks have been explored through other metaphors. As an extension
of conventional vehicles, the transition from aeronautics to astronautics might
be fruitfully understood as having cognitive implications (as argued with respect
to Wittgenstein). Such possibilities have been discussed elsewhere (Entering
Alternative Realities -- Astronautics vs Noonautics: isomorphism between launching
aerospace vehicles and launching vehicles of awareness, 2002; Towards
an Astrophysics of the Knowledge Universe from astronautics to noonautics? 2006).
To the extent that websites are designed to reflect sets of values, often explicitly
so, as distinct features of knowledge society they too might be fruitfully
reframed as vehicles (Transforming
Static Websites into Mobile "Wizdomes": enabling
change through intertwining dynamic and configurative metaphors, 2007).
"Identity pods": The possibility that the iPod/iPhone generation,
and its successors, may have an entirely different relationship to values follows
from that exploration of "wizdomes".
The iPod has even been defined
in value terms by Steven Levy (The
Perfect Thing: how the iPod shuffles commerce, culture, and coolness,
2006). It might then be understood from the user's perspective
as a kind of "identity pod". Within it is defined the identity of
the person as in any good "organizer" -- to the degree that they
may render identity cards obsolete.
Through it the interface with other electronic and social resources is specified
-- enabling navigation anywhere in knowledge society.
Typically such devices may contain iconic images defining symbolic
relationships with individuals, places and other valued representations. They
may provide for access to sacred texts and could well be used as a "prayer
in celebration of some set of values to which access could be offered as a
menu item -- or accessed automatically on a value-a-day basis, with mnemonic
musical accompaniment. Sets of values, and their representation in music and
song, might even be downloaded -- as signature tunes. Especially in
their expression in song with which people identify, values may already be
more widely understood in a visual or sonified form. As an
electronic equivalent to cocooning,
their use might be understood as enabling a "value cocoon" -- in
a dynamically gated "value community" (cf Dynamically
Gated Conceptual Communities, 2004).
What more might be expected of a value-based vehicle for identity?
Ironically, given the interactive video games that may be played on such devices,
any BaGua animation could have dynamic features resembling such games in
many respects. As with the older game requiring the coordination to move a
ball of mercury within a labyrinth of obstacles, an electronic version could
involve control of movement in relation to the attraction/repulsion dynamics
of the 8 "pillars" in the BaGua configuration. This could be understood as
reflecting the skillset required of cognitive fusion as well as that of attention
management and meditation -- echoing the complex challenges of spider locomotion
and the Eightfold Way..
Metaphors as "vehicles": This approach to reframing value frameworks through
metaphor highlights the unexplored potential role of metaphor in enabling the
values we might live by (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live
By, 1980). Metaphors,
as poets have demonstrated down the centuries, can themselves be understood
as vehicles (cf Metaphors
as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991).
The question is whether there are possibilities for designing such vehicles
in new ways -- as "all terrain vehicles -- to respond to the challenges of
navigiating the cognitive terrain of the knowledge society of the 21st century.
If values, as paradoxical attractors/repulsors, are to be understood in some
way as the cognitive "wheels" of such vehicles, how are they to be understood
as "engaging" with that terrain?
This clearly has implications both for strategic thinking and for engendering
psychoactive engagement with the concerns of governance. Within the vehicle
metaphor, it might be argued that current thinking involves models with many
"spinning wheels" but little capacity to engage effectively with
the terrain. In that sense governance might be said to be effectively "bogged
mud or sand.
Whilst metaphor is widely used in politics, its appropriate use in policy-making
is less appreciated. If it is possible that the coherence of a viable set of
metaphors, capable of enabling a coherent sets of strategies, is best understood
and communicated through metaphor, then attention to the possibility is appropriate
at a time when fragmentation is widely acknowledged (Developing
a Metaphorical Language for the Future, 1994). The insight of
Kenneth Boulding (Ecodynamics; a new theory of social
evolution, 1978) might then be suitably adapted to global ethics
and value sets:
Our consciousness of the unity of self
in the middle of a vast complexity of images or material structures
is at least a suitable metaphor for the unity of group, organization,
department, discipline or science. If personification is a metaphor,
let us not despise metaphors -- we might be one ourselves.